As an agility trainer, I sometimes avoid working on skills that I want, but don’t need. A great example is the retrieve. Tugging with your dog can be powerfully reinforcing, but that can only happen when your dog brings the toy back! My young golden retriever, Lexi, loves to run off with toys when she gets the chance. For months, I’ve wanted to change this, but instead I managed the issue by using mostly food rewards and attaching either her or the toy to a long line.
My problem was not a technical one; there are many great options for teaching a dog to retrieve. My problem was a mental one. After having Daisy Peel as a guest on our podcast in Episode 7: Daisy Peel Interview on Mental Management, I decided to make this training issue a priority. I created an affirmation based on the concepts from Lanny Bassham’s With Winning In Mind. You can get a feel for Lanny’s approach to goal setting in his free blog article “Defining A Goal.”
June 25, 2012. I have taught my dog to retrieve a high value toy to my hand and then tug with me. I enjoy training my dog with her favorite toy, knowing that she will come to me for a great game of tug. This makes my training fun and fluid, without stress and anxiety for me or my dog. When I train, I keep my sessions short and highly motivating. I restrain my dog and throw the toy a short distance away. I release her with a verbal cue and race her to the toy. I call her back to me and present my hand as a target. I do not move toward her; I patiently wait for her to come to me. I tug with enthusiasm and praise and end the session before she tires. I avoid training when I am tired or grumpy. I have taught my dog to retrieve a high value toy to my hand and then tug with me.